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Solar Probe Plus

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NASA’s Solar Probe Plus Mission Moves One Step Closer to Launch

NASA’s Solar Probe Plus – the first mission that will fly into sun's upper atmosphere and “touch” the sun – has passed a design review, an important milestone leading to its anticipated summer...

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Launch Window: July 31 – August 19, 2018

This Week in Integration & Test

Integration and Test activities continue with Radio...

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Mission Trajectory

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Main Flight Harness Installation

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The Mission

NASA's Solar Probe Plus mission will revolutionize our understanding of the sun.


Solar Probe Plus will swoop to within 4 million miles of the sun's surface, facing heat and radiation like no spacecraft before it. Launching in 2018, Solar Probe Plus will provide new data on solar activity and make critical contributions to our ability to forecast major space-weather events that impact life on Earth.

Solar Probe Plus is an extraordinary and historic mission exploring arguably the last and most important region of the solar system to be visited by a spacecraft to finally answer top-priority science goals for over five decades.

But we don't do this just for the basic science.

One recent study by the National Academy of Sciences estimated that without advance warning a huge solar event could cause two trillion dollars in damage in the US alone, and the eastern seaboard of the US could be without power for a year.

In order to unlock the mysteries of the corona, but also to protect a society that is increasingly dependent on technology from the threats of space weather, we will send Solar Probe Plus to touch the sun.

The Sun

The sun is a dynamic star.


Why Solar Probe Plus?

We live in the sun's atmosphere! This mission will provide insight on a critical link in the Sun-Earth connection. Data will be key to understanding and, perhaps, forecasting space weather.

We need to go so close because:

  • the corona is unstable, producing the solar wind, flares and coronal mass ejections – we need to study at the source!
  • millions of tons of highly magnetized material can erupt from the sun at speeds of several million miles an hour – fast enough to get from Washington to LA in seconds!

Why is the corona hotter than the surface? Why is there a solar wind?

We can only answer these questions by getting up close and personal with our star

Two views of the sun's atmosphere

The concept for a "Solar Probe" dates back to "Simpson's Committee" of the Space Science Board (National Academy of Sciences, 24 October 1958).

The need for extraordinary knowledge of sun from remote observations, theory, and modeling to answer the questions:

  • Why is the solar corona so much hotter than the photosphere?
  • How is the solar wind accelerated?

The answers to these questions have been of top priority in multiple Roadmaps and Decadal Surveys.

We live in the atmosphere of the sun.

Physics of the corona and inner heliosphere connect the activity of the sun to the environment and technological infrastructure of Earth will:

  • drive the fundamental physics of the heliosphere, aurora, and magnetosphere of Earth and other planets
  • help us improve satellite communications, power grid issues, pipeline erosion, radiation exposure on airline flights, astronaut safety

Until we can explain what is going on up close to the sun, we will not be able to accurately predict space weather effects that can cause havoc at Earth.

Spacecraft

Extreme Engineering


Just the facts

NASA selected instrument suites

685 kg max launch wet mass

Reference Dimensions
• S/C height: 3 m
• TPS max diameter: 2.3 m
• S/C bus diameter: 1 m

C-C Thermal protection system

Hexagonal prism s/c bus configuration

Actively cooled solar arrays
• 388 W electrical power at encounter
• Solar array total area: 1.55 m2
• Radiator area under TPS: 4 m2

0.6 m HGA, 34 W TWTA Ka-band science DL

Science downlink rate: 167 kb/s at 1AU

Blowdown monoprop hydrazine propulsion

Wheels for attitude control

NASA's historic Solar Probe Plus (SPP) mission will revolutionize our understanding of the Sun. SPP will swoop closer to the Sun’s surface than any spacecraft before it, facing brutal heat and radiation conditions.

The spacecraft will come as close as 3.9 million miles (6.2 million kilometers) to the Sun, well within the orbit of Mercury and more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before.

To perform these unprecedented investigations, the spacecraft and instruments will be protected from the Sun’s heat by a 4.5-inch-thick (11.43 cm) carbon-composite shield, which will need to withstand temperatures outside the spacecraft that reach nearly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,377 degrees Celsius).

Anti-Ram Facing View

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Ram Facing View

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Concept of Operations

Diagram of concept of operation of the Solar Probe Plus Spacecraft

News Center

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Latest News

Engineers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, prepare the developing Solar Probe Plus spacecraft for thermal vacuum tests that simulate conditions in space. Today the spacecraft includes the primary structure and its propulsion system; still to be installed over the next several months are critical systems such as power, communications and thermal protection, as well as science instruments.

NASA’s Solar Probe Plus Mission Moves One Step Closer to Launch

Posted on 07/29/2016 09:46:39

NASA’s Solar Probe Plus – the first mission that will fly into sun's upper atmosphere and “touch” the sun – has passed a design review, an important milestone leading to its anticipated summer 2018 launch.


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Main Flight Harness Installation

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Integration and Testing

Integration and Test activities continue with Radio Frequency (RF) testing and the installation of the inertial measurement unit (IMU) which is used for maneuvering the spacecraft as a component of the guidance and control subsystem.

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NASA's Eclipse Event Map

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NASA's Eyes on the Eclipse

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